“Content is king.”

“Everyone’s investing in content.”

“Content marketing is the only type of marketing left.”

We’ve all heard these sound bites. But what do they really mean? I don’t know.

What I do know is that the content marketing industry is growing and maturing at a fast pace.

As more people (both as brands and agencies) pursue content in earnest, more content is produced. Some of it’s good, but a lot of it’s bad. As we come to the end of the year, it’s time to think about how we can do better. How do we course correct (when needed) or upgrade our content marketing efforts?

Here are a few ideas for what we plan, want, and hope to see in 2017.

1) Fewer but better content pieces

Committing to or investing in good content marketing doesn’t mean producing a ton of content; it means producing good content. What is that? Content that engages, educates, and inspires people—not valueless fluff that rehashes the top three articles found on Google.

Effective content marketers produce enough content to engage their audience and keep them coming back. The priority should always be quality first, scale second.

2) Less bullshit (and less jargon)

I hope there will be less reliance on bullshit and jargon and more efforts to communicate clear, concise, and compelling messages. Want a good example of an authentic voice? Look at Seth Godin’s blog. Let’s all try to speak to humans like humans.

3) Deep brand storytelling

The word “storytelling” is bandied about quite a bit in the advertising and creative agency world. Often this word has become a thinly veiled term for whatever the agency is doing.

But in its true sense, storytelling is an incredible way to bring people into the fold and connect with them in an emotional way. Here are a few great examples of brand storytelling:

Under Armor’s “I Will What I Want” video 

Bose’s “Get Closer” video

Harvy Nichols’ security came video

Other favorites:

4) Creative video content

Video is only on the rise. By 2020, global consumer Internet video traffic will account for 82% of all consumer Internet traffic. The medium is unmatched as a rich viewing experience that asks very little of the audience. Whether it’s explainer videos, motion graphics, or brand videos, this is an arena worth exploring.

Even if you don’t have a huge budget, a video ad for social or simple Instagram video can be effective. 

(For more on video, learn how to write a great video script and avoid these 10 mistakes in video production.)

5) Unique interactive experiences

Interactive experiences are especially engaging, allowing your audience to follow their curiosity. (Learn more about the 7 ways interactive infographics can tell your story.) Depending on your goals, you can provide a unique storytelling experience by guiding your audience through the interactive or letting them control the story. 

Narrative interactives guide your audience through one storyline. Example: the Anatomy of a Breach interactive we made for Microsoft.

content marketing tips

Explorative interactives allow your audience to explore what they like, dig into data, etc. Example: The Media Use in the Middle East interactive we made for Northwestern University.

content marketing tips

Interactive content is also a great digital replacement for tactile learning, which is a proven effective learning tool.

6) Mixed reality

Pokémon Go was insane—and only the tip of the iceberg. I am not as bullish on virtual reality (VR) as some of my peers are, but AR is already here. I believe that MR adoption will increase in 2017. And in about two years out, we’ll see more VR executions integrated into content marketing strategies, vs being a novelty.

I believe that MR adoption will increase in 2017. About two years out, we’ll see more VR executions integrated into content marketing strategies vs. being a novelty.

7) Brands committing to content and acting like publishers

Most brands are doing some content, but they aren’t necessarily “all in.” To produce content effectively, you need to have not only a vision but also the infrastructure, strategy, proper team, and other smart partners to fill in your gaps.

This is not something you can do halfheartedly.

My prediction is that the brands that take this seriously will invest seriously. They will thoughtfully tell the best stories through their content and develop their supply chain to consistently deliver valuable content, leading their industries in coming decades.

8) Values-driven content

People care about the people behind the brands they support. They care about the origin stories, the values, and the shared culture. They care about what makes a brand unique, which comes down to the people who work for that brand.

I would even go so far as to say that people yearn to feel a connection to these things. But you can’t achieve this connection if you never open up and show your true colors.

At our agency, we dedicate our talents to internal projects that reflect passions, values, and causes we care about. For example, we created the People For Periods interactive infographic to help de-stigmatize menstruation, a taboo that affects everything from girls’ education to legislation worldwide. We’ve also turned some of our philosophies into fine-art posters.

9) Less “salesy” content

I personally hope that 2017 is the year that everyone in our industry learns the difference between sales content and marketing content. The worst way to bring audiences into your brand is to drive sales content down their throat.

Many content marketers get pressure from their bosses to weave mention of their brand (e.g., how great their brand is and their unique value proposition) into their material. But editorial content is meant to attract people at the awareness stage. The sales pitch should stay out of it. Instead, learn how to educate your audience and develop a killer buying experience.

Let’s Do This

We plan to pursue these tactics ourselves and recommend our partners do the same. Content marketing is never easy, but it’s an enjoyable challenge. As you continue your content marketing efforts and strategies in the new year, I wish you and your team a successful 2017.

For more ways to do great marketing, read our team’s top 10 tips for creating great content, learn how to work with the 4 types of creative thinkers, and avoid these 5 content mistakes. As always, if you need a little help with your content, we’re happy to chat